Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Taming Typhoons

Typhoon 21 attacked Okinawa and is coming to Kyushu, Shikoku and the Mainland of Japan. It is the eighth that came to Japan this year. The number is a new record in the weather observation history of Japan. Violent hurricanes also gave much damage in U.S.A this year. -- Huge rotating storms are called typhoons in the western Pacific, hurricanes in the Atlantic and the eastern Pacific oceans, and cyclones in the Indian Ocean. -- Many years ago there was a guess that nuclear power might be useful to moderate these wild tempests, but it has not been realized. Radioactive waste produced by that method would cause a serious problem. Chaotic behavior of weather, on the other hand, gives a hint at a more practicable method.

In the October 2004 issue of Scientific American, Ross N. Hoffman, a principal scientist and vice president for research and development at Atmospheric and Environment Research in Lexington, Mass. U.S.A., writes about the study being made by him and his coworkers for taming hurricanes [1]. They are using computer models to simulate hurricanes. Altering several of initial conditions in the model, including its temperature and humidity at various points, they have found that the tracks of the simulated storms veer or that maximum velocities are reduced. Hoffman writes near the end of his article:
If our understanding of cloud physics, computer simulation of clouds and data assimilation techniques advance as quickly as we hope, these modest trials [to enhance rainfalls] could be instituted in perhaps 10 to 20 years.
It seems to be a long way to achieve larger-scale weather control by the use of space-based heating. A fantastic idea is said to be "a cloud of words" [also in Japanese: "kumo wo tsukamu yona hanashi (a story like catching a cloud)"]. However, we heard a good piece of news: After a long succession of dry days in Shanghai this summer, they succeeded in causing artificial rainfall by shooting metallic seeds from a plane into clouds. Let us wish that the realization of moderating typhoons comes not so far in the future.
  1. R. N. Hoffman, "Controlling Hurricanes," Sci. Amer. Vol. 291, No. 4, p. 38 (2004).

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